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Exposing how Trinitarian Apologists Misuse Thomas’ “My Lord, My God” Expression

Question Mark

Introduction

Christian polemist Sam Shamoun considers Dr. James White a “reformed Christian scholar and apologist”. As such he quotes him towards a common agenda – the viability of Trinity, especially, the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him):

Unfortunately there are those that oppose the doctrine of the glorious and blessed Trinity who seek to diminish Thomas’ declaration to the essential Deity of our risen Lord. Yet noted reformed Christian scholar and apologist Dr. James R. White demonstrates why such feeble attempts by these anti-Trinitarian groups simply do not work:

“Thomas’s answer is simple and clear. It is directed to the Lord Jesus, not to anyone else, for John says, ‘he said to Him.’ The content of his confession is plain and unambiguous. ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus is Thomas’s Lord. Of this there is no question. And there is simply no reason–grammatical, contextual, or otherwise–to deny that in the very same breath Thomas calls Christ his ‘God.’

“Jesus’ response to Thomas’s confession shows not the slightest discomfort at the appellation ‘God.’ Jesus says Thomas has shown faith, for he has ‘believed.’ He then pronounces a blessing upon all who will believe like Thomas without the added element of physical sight. There is no reproach of Thomas’s description of Jesus as his Lord and God. No created being could ever allow such words to be addressed to him personally. No angel, no prophet, no sane human being, could ever allow himself to be addressed as ‘Lord and God.’ Yet Jesus not only accepts the words of Thomas but pronounces the blessing of faith upon them as well.” (White, The Forgotten Trinity – Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN 1998], Chapter 5. Jesus Christ: God in Human Flesh, pp. 69-70) (http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/shamoun/identity1.html)

By quoting Dr. White from his book “The Forgotten Trinity”, Shamoun wants to support the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) through Thomas’ proclamation of him being his “Lord and God”!

Thus, we would concentrate specifically on this darling Trinitarian argument to expose how Shamoun and White have been twisting their own “Scriptures” merely to suit a sectarian agenda.

Note that White is confident that the grammar and context around “Thomas’ confession” does not yield anything else but that Jesus (peace be upon him) was his “Lord and God”. Therefore, we would use White’s own yardsticks to check the viability of the argument. We take context first and then grammar.

Context

We are glad that Dr. White has appealed to the context of Thomas’ confession since the context itself dispels most of Trinitarian mist. Thomas’ so-called confession is specific to immediate scenes after Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged post crucifixion resurrection. Consider the following “verses”:

It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!” (John 20: 19-29)

Notice the set up very carefully. The same day – Sunday – when Jesus (peace be upon him) had allegedly risen from death, he meets all his disciples in a closed quarter except Thomas.

When the other ten disciples inform Thomas that they have had actually witnessed the “risen Jesus” (peace be upon him) physically – he belied them: “I will not believe”.

In fact, Thomas provided his own whimsical yardstick that unless he has put his fingers through Jesus’ (peace be upon him) wounds, he would not believe in as foundational a doctrine as Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection!?

In Thomas we have a man torn between two emotions: On one side he – the best and earliest Christ “believer” –  could not believe the super natural event of resurrection, while on other hand, he has the testimony of categorically all of his colleagues. It was under these confused and agitated circumstances that Thomas had to spend one full week praying for peace of heart.

It was under this context that Jesus (peace be upon him), after a week’s period of tested patience, appears to Thomas pandering to his demand, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side.

Initially Thomas was sure of the falsity in the reports of the Apostles and now he did not merely witnessed the allegedly post crucifixion resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) but he was also given a chance to put fingers in his wounds – exactly as he demanded. In fact, Jesus (peace be upon him) himself pacified him towards belief: “Stop your doubting, and believe!

On the foregoing, the doubting-Thomas was but naturally taken by surprise and when he was confirmed of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged so-called resurrection, he inadvertently exclaimed at the moment, in his conversation, to his interlocutor – Jesus (peace be upon him), “My Lord and My God!

No wonder White also makes a big argument that Thomas said specifically to Jesus (peace be upon him) as His Lord and God:

Thomas’s answer is simple and clear. It is directed to the Lord Jesus, not to anyone else, for John says, ‘he said to Him.’

Although we believe we have already responded it above yet we revisit it. Thomas and Jesus (peace be upon him) were in conversation where the latter was trying to put faith in the former. Under such circumstances Thomas’ inadvertent exclamation upon belief would have to be towards Jesus (peace be upon him) with whom he was conversing, although, not necessarily for him. And any third party recording the conversation would apparently have to claim that Thomas said to Jesus (peace be upon him) what he said (for the simple fact that they were in conversation).

Taking parallels from daily life, while conversing with somebody else we often come across surprising moments and we do exclaim, “My God” at the interlocutor yet this is not specifically targeted for him/herself.

Jesus’ (peace be upon him) further response to Thomas’ exclamation further corroborates that the exclamatory remark was not meant for Jesus (peace be upon him). Consider the following explanation:

Once Jesus (peace be upon him) had received positive exclamatory remark from Thomas, awing at the wonders of “His Lord and His God” – the biblical Father – Jesus (peace be upon him) praised Thomas for him finally believing in the resurrection! He connected Thomas’ exclamatory remark to the belief in hisresurrection than on accepting his deity! This can be further evidenced by Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement wherein he said, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!

Notice the rationale in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) query; he questions Thomas that he has believed because he has seen him! Therefore, how much more blessed would be those who not witness his physical resurrected body and yet believe in his resurrection! Now, we have seen in the contextual “verses” that all other disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) had witnessed/seen physical resurrected body of Jesus (peace be upon him) except Thomas. Thus, Thomas also “believed” in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) once he saw him (“you see me”) after resurrection.

Therefore, any attempt to connect Thomas’ exclamation to anything else (like Jesus’ deity) than his belief in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection would only evince the dire desperation of Trinitarians to prove his deity! As such White was only twisting and forcing his interpretations when he “exposited” as follows:

“Jesus’ response to Thomas’s confession shows not the slightest discomfort at the appellation ‘God.’ Jesus says Thomas has shown faith, for he has ‘believed.’…There is no reproach of Thomas’s description of Jesus as his Lord and God. No created being could ever allow such words to be addressed to him personally. No angel, no prophet, no sane human being, could ever allow himself to be addressed as ‘Lord and God.’ Yet Jesus not only accepts the words of Thomas but pronounces the blessing of faith upon them as well.”

However, such “exegesis” is expected in given weak situation of Christianity undermined by the lack of concrete, explicit evidence even in their best chosen scriptures.

The problem with White’s flawed “exegesis” does not stop here since rather than doing any good it backfires to jeopardizes the very base of Trinity-ism:

Let us agree with Dr. White’s “exegesis” that when Thomas exclaimed “My Lord and My God”, he had actually “shown faith” and “believed” in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him). On the light of this explanation we would have to infer that, a couple of “verses” earlier, Thomas disbelieved in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) since he claimed the following “gospel-truth”:

Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” (John 20: 25-27)

If Jesus (peace be upon him) ratified and “Apostle” Thomas’ belief in his deity, then he must have been rebuking, a couple of verses ago, Thomas’ disbelieve (“I willnot believe”) in his deity!! So then we have the earliest of all Christians, an apostle himself, the so-called twin brother of Jesus (peace be upon him), “not believing” in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) deity; so much so that, Jesus (peace be upon him) had to revisit after his alleged death to re-baptize Thomas’ hitherto maverick belief!!??

To further exacerbate the situation, it was not merely doubting-Thomas but,according to White’s explanation, all other ten disciples were not willing to “believe” in the “deity” of Jesus (peace be upon him)!  This is so because just like Thomas, all other disciples, initially disbelieved in the resurrection until they witnessed it firsthand:

He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.’ “Then the women remembered his words, returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the grave cloths but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:6-12)

They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it. (Luke 16:13)

As Jesus (peace be upon him) was irked at Thomas’ disbelief “in-his-deity”, similarly he also chided the other ten “apostles” for their unbelief (!):

Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. He said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.  (Mark 16: 14-15)

And,

And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened. Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb, but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him.” Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?” And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets. (Luke 24:21-27)

Accepting White’s “exegesis” would imply that none of the disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) were willing to believe in his deity unless they saw and spoke to him after his resurrection. As New Testament manuscript scholar D.C. Parker asserts:

“…that the disciples did not believe (neither source has such a reference), and that when Jesus does appear, he rebukes ‘their unbelief and hardness of heart’. It is only when they see and speak with Jesus that they believe.(D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997), p.140)

On foregoing, as a Muslim all we want to say to Mr. White is – Thank you very much!

Grammar

So much with the “context” of the verse! In this section we would deal with White’s second argument that the grammatical construction of Thomas’ exclamation also proves nothing but deity of Jesus (peace be upon him). Note that Dr. White is a learned scholar of the Greek language. To refresh here are White’s words once again:

 And there is simply no reason–grammatical, contextual, or otherwise–to deny that in the very same breath Thomas calls Christ his ‘God.’

According to classical Trinity-ism there are three distinct persons in the godhead! As such it was considered heretical to blur the distinction between the 3 distinct persons in the godhead:

Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God.  It is a denial of the Trinity. Modalism states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms.  Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times.  At the incarnation, the mode was the Son and after Jesus‘ ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit.  These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous.  In other words, this view states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another.  Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ.

Present day groups that hold to forms of this error are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches.  They deny the Trinity, teach that the name of God is Jesus, and require baptism for salvation.  These modalist churches often accuse Trinitarians of teaching three gods.  This is not what the Trinity is.  The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons:  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Source: CARM)

With that understood, let us see how White’s “exegesis” has led him to efface the important Trinitarian distinction between the persons in the godhead!

The literal translation for the English expression, “My Lord and My God” in Greek would be: Mou Kurios Kai Mou Theos. In other words, Greek word “Kurios” is for “Lord” in English and “Theos” is equivalent to English word “God”. And, standard Trinitarian “exegesis” to which White also endorse, both the words have been addressed to Jesus (peace be upon him).

However, this is exactly where the problem lies. According to standard Trinitarian belief, the three persons (gods?) in the godhead (polytheism?) are distinct from each other. The Father is not the son and vice versa. And technically, New Testament, especially in the epistles of “apostle” Paul has always applied the titles “Kurios” (Lord) to the person of son (and therefore not to the father) and “Theos” (God) to father (and therefore not to the son). Consider the following Pauline verse as substantiation of the notion:

yet there is for us only one God (Theos), the Father, who is the Creator of all things and for whom we live; and there is only one Lord (Kurios), Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)

Luke also made similar distinction:

“All the people of Israel, then, are to know for sure that this Jesus, whom you crucified, is the one that God (Theos) has made Lord (Kurios) and Messiah!” (Act 2:36)

Observe the theological nuances in the above quotations. In the Pauline quote, God – the Father is the creator (not the Son), however, the creation is facilitated through the person of Son. As such Father is termed as God and Son as Lord – to make distinctions clear. As such the appellation of God and Lord to the same person would diminish the distinction between the Creator (Father) and the means of creation (Son); of course such ignorance cannot be attributed to “apostle” Thomas.

In the Lukan quote, God (Father) has not made Jesus (peace be upon him) as Godand Messiah. Rather, he wrote that God has made him “Lord” and Messiah; indicating that although where Jesus (peace be upon him) was referred to as Lord, he was never entitled as God even when Jesus (peace be upon him) was to be appealed for his (Trinitarian) divinity.

On the foregoing, it is rather interesting to observe that where Father has been referred to as “God” at numerous places in the Bible (including New Testament) and Jesus (peace be upon him) has been referred to as lord elsewhere; at not one place do we find Jesus (peace be upon him) referred as God prior to this Trinitarian misunderstanding. This lends more support to the notion that Thomas, based on the biblical literary traditions, could not possibly have entitled Jesus (peace be upon him) as God.

Thus, it can be argued on good grounds that the New Testament authors aptly reserved the title “God” for the “person” of Father and lord for Jesus (peace be upon him). They hardly mixed the two titles together to avoid “heresy” of the Sabellistic kind!

“In the very same breath”

White made an interesting remark that Thomas called Jesus (peace be upon him) God in the very same breath as he called him his Lord!

…in the very same breath Thomas calls Christ his ‘God.’

We showed the Sabbelistic perils in calling Jesus (peace be upon him) Lord andGod “in the very same breath”. However, if White would be at all consistent with his argument of “same breath” then we have several instances in the Bible where God and mere mortals have been conjoined together in divinity, in the same breath. Consider few of such for instance:

 “Then David said to the whole assembly, ‘Bless Yahweh your God.’ And the whole assembly blessed Yahweh, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads low and worshiped Yahweh AND the king (wayyiqadu wayyishtahawu YHWHW walammelek).” 1 Chronicles 29:20

And,

They will serve (wa‘abadu) Yahweh their God AND David their king whom I will raise up for them.” Jeremiah 30:9

Notice in the above citations the congregations are bowing, worshipping Yahwehand in the same breath bowing and worshipping the king of the state too! They served Yahweh and in the same breath, served David (peace be upon him) as well.

Thus, if White is consistent then he got to use his argument to bow, worship and serve worldly kings as did his Israeli forefathers! Probably he has forgotten to take note of it and thus we may assume The Forgotten Polytheism is on its way.

Let alone the term “God”, Thomas’ referral to Jesus (peace be upon him) as Lordwould also hardly do any good to the Trinitarian argument. Since in Old Testament the term “Lord” has been assigned to Yahweh,

Thus says your Lord (adonayik), Yahweh and your God, Who pleads the cause of His people: ‘See, I have taken out of your hand The cup of trembling, The dregs of the cup of My fury; You shall no longer drink it.’” (Isaiah 51:22)

And the same term – Lord (adonayik) – in the same breath, has been assigned to worldly kings too:

“So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord (adonayik), worship Him (wahishtahawilow)… I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever. (Psalm 45:11, 17)

So much for Dr. White’s claim that Thomas claimed in the same breath that Jesus (peace be upon him) is his Lord and God!

Conclusion

We were amazed to see how a “scholar” of New Testament – Dr. James White – claimed that there is nothing in the context and grammatical construction of “Thomas’ confession” to prove other than he claimed Jesus (peace be upon him) as his Lord and God.

As far as context was concerned, Thomas was too much a “disciple” to merely believe in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him); he wanted to tangiblyexperience of  Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrected body. As such when, after one week of boiling confusion, Jesus (peace be upon him) appeared to Thomas, he couldn’t help but give words to his hitherto half baked belief in the resurrection with a exclamatory remark of remembering God: “My Lord My God”. Jesus (peace be upon him) after hearing the exclamatory remarks of alluding to Thomas’ acceptance of his resurrection, confirms him that he has believed, not to former’s deity, but the belief in his resurrection!

Therefore, if Trinitarians like White (and Shamoun) would argue that Thomas believed in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) through his “confession”, then they would also have to agree that one of the closest disciple, the so-called “twin brother”, disbelieved in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) for good long period! Embarrassingly, on the same corollary, not merely Thomas but all other disciple initially disbelieved in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him).

Grammatical construction also does not avail much as appealing to it would diminish the important Trinitarian difference between the persons of Father and Son since New Testament has reserved the title of God for Father and lord for Jesus (peace be upon him).

On the contrary, appealing to the grammatical construction, would deify multiple kings.

We expect from scholars like Dr. White that although they have full right to profess their faith yet they need to be more sincere while propagating it. In the mean time,there is no God but Allah (SWT) and Mohammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger and slave.

The Obvious Theological Biases driving Gospel of Mark!

Exposing the concerted motives behind the two endings of the gospel 

Question Mark

Introduction 

The Gospel of Mark is purportedly the oldest gospel now present in the New Testament. On one hand where it enjoys the antiquity, on other hand, it intrigues Bible students too! In this paper we are concerned with one such perplexing issue related with the gospel and a fundamental Christian doctrine.

Gospel of Mark, unlike any other gospel, has two endings to it – as weird as it sounds – in one version it ends at Chapter 16, Verse 8, however, in another version it continues thereafter to end at verse 20. Various Bibles now in print often provide both the endings with sufficient notifications on the issue. For instance, The Good News Edition marginalizes/brackets verses 9 through 20 which we would be referring to as extraneous-verses throughout this paper.

Christians generally explain the matter as manuscript differences. However, is the issue so straight forward? When we tried to look into the matter a little closely, it turned out to be that it was not merely an issue of manuscripts! There were ponderous, controversial doctrinal issues hovering around the two narratives. Thus, in this paper we would address the objectives behind otherwise innocent looking two endings of Mark’s gospel(s) (1.).

 

The two endings

 

In this section we would briefly paraphrase the two endings which we have in gospel of Mark today.

 

Longer/Extraneous ending (Mark 16:9-20)

In this version, Jesus (peace be upon him) appears to his disciples after his alleged resurrection from death and commands them various things:

 

After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went and told his companions. They were mourning and crying; and when they heard her say that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe her. After this, Jesus appeared in a different manner to two of them while they were on their way to the country. They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it. (Mark 16: 9-13)

 

For various passionate Christians this ending of the gospel is very sensational since in this account, upon (alleged) resurrection, Jesus (peace be upon him) appears and informs his disciples that they would be able to achieve extraordinary feats:

 

“Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive.

Believers will be given the power to perform miracles: they will drive out demons in my name; they will speak in strange tongues; if they pick up snakes or drink any poison, they will not be harmed; they will place their hands on sick people, and these will get well.” (Mark 16: 14, 17-18)

 

[Friendly Appeal: We strongly request our “believing” friends at ‘answering-islam’ not to try handling vipers or drink the venom of rattlers.]

 

After addressing the disciples thereafter, Jesus (peace be upon him) is portrayed to have been lifted to the heaven:

 

After the Lord Jesus had talked with them, he was taken up to heaven and sat at the right side of God. The disciples went and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and proved that their preaching was true by the miracles that were performed. (Mark 16: 19-20)

Here the longer version ends. So this longer version, in general terms, is more or less similar to the other gospel accounts except the sensational blessings for the believers. So far so good!

 

Shorter ending (Mark 16:1-8)

In the shorter version of the gospel however, Jesus’ (peace be upon him) female disciples, who also served him as his masseuse on occasions, from Galilee and Bethany hurries to the tomb on early Sunday morning to massage Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged corpse once again.

 

However, upon visiting the tomb, abnormally, they find a man already present inside it; although the tomb was sealed by a massive stone!

 

This mysterious man informs them that Jesus (peace be upon him) is no more in the tomb since he has been raised. He also commanded them to inform to other apostles especially Peter that, as planned, Jesus (peace be upon him) has been raised from the tomb:

 

Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. (SEE 16:3) So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe—and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ “(Mark 16: 2-7)

 

However, the biblical “disciples” of Jesus (peace be upon him) acted contradictorily to run away from the tomb; moreover, they did not inform to any other apostle that Jesus (peace be upon him) has been raised!

 

So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8)

Just at this point, the shorter version of Mark’s gospel ends!

At this junction of the paper, we could feel that something fishy was transpiring in the pages of the so-called “Injeel”. Before we dig further into the issue, it is relatively important to know about the authenticity of the two narratives.

Authenticity of the two endings

  

According to biblical scholarship, the first or shorter narration of the gospel is foundonly in oldest and best Markan manuscripts:

 

 

…the last twelve verses of Mark, in which Jesus appears to his disciples after the resurrection, telling them to preach the gospel to all the nations and indicating that those who believe in him will speak in strange tongues, handle snakes, and drink poison without feeling its effects. But this amazing and startling ending is not found in the oldest and best manuscripts of Mark.Instead, these manuscripts end at Mark 16:8, where the women at Jesus’ tomb are told that he has been raised, are instructed to inform Peter, but then flee the tomb and say nothing to anyone, “for they were afraid.” And that is the end of the story. (Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities, p. 78)

 

We will talk about the authenticity of the longer, extraneous-version soon but at this instant let us assume that the so-called Holy “Ghost” did inspire the writer (whoever s/he was) with the extraneous-verses. With that said, let us do some inquiry into the two differing endings.

 

Notice that the “best” and the “oldest” manuscript did not had the extra-verses (9 through 20). On the foregoing, we propose the following queries:

 

1)      Why the extra “verses” were not present in the “oldest” and “best” manuscript?

2)      Does the presence of extraneous-verses in later manuscripts imply that they were “inspired” to younger writer(s)?

3)      Subsequently, we ask: why were the extraneous-verses not inspired to earlier author(s)?

 

The truth of the matter is that the appended extraneous-verses are inauthentic and forged in the name of Mark. Biblical authority is almost unanimous about it. The introduction to gospel of Mark has the following to say:

 

The two endings of the Gospel, which are enclosed in brackets, are generally regarded as written by someone other than the author of Mark. (The Gospel according to Mark, Introduction, Good News Edition, p. 44)

 

Consequently, if the extraneous-verses were inauthentic then why were they forged in the first place? Why were they inserted into “God’s words”? Like any other forging, these counterfeit “verses” served basically two fundamental Paulineobjectives:

 Objective 1: To confirm that Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed resurrected.

Objective 2: To further corroborate that Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised.

The two objectives look very similar on the face of it, however, the there are subtle but very important difference between them; we would explore them in the passages to follow to finally see how important it was for the Pauline Christianity to achieve these objectives and how menacing it could have been for Pauline Christianity if the extraneous-verses were absent.

Objective 1: To confirm that Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed resurrected

 

Remember that in the shorter version of Mark it was the mysterious man in the tomb apprising the ladies that Jesus (peace be upon him) has risen. In other words the ladies were not firsthand, eye witnesses of the resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him).

 

The unknown identity of the informing man in the tomb; lack of firsthand eyewitness account for resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) – these were enough ground to reduce the veracity of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection which in turn had negative repercussions on his (alleged) death and would have in turn undermined the (alleged) crucifixion as well!

 

Therefore, to fill the obvious gaps, Bible redactors conveniently added the extraneous-verses and attributed them to God. So now we have the longer version in which Jesus (peace be upon him) is being witnessed by several of his disciples after his resurrection – problem was immediately solved!

 

However, the redactors supposedly working under the influence of Holy “Ghost” did an utterly gauche job when they out of need appended extraneous-verses. Initial Mark – the shorter version – ended with ladies not witnessing resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) in the tomb. In fact the preternatural men inside the tomb exhorted them that resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) would be witnessed on-road to Galilee:

 

 

So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe—and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.‘ “(Mark 16: 5-7)

 

However, contradictorily, (appended) verse 9 stated that the ladies did witness Jesus (peace be upon him) on Sunday – his resurrection day:

 

After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. (Mark 16:9)

 

The presumably “resurrected” Jesus (peace be upon him) did not meet Mary Magdalene on Galilee highway but at very close proximity of the tomb, in fact, at the entrance of the tomb itself.

 

Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. “Woman, why are you crying?” they asked her. She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?” She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Teacher.”) (John 20:11-16)

 

On the foregoing, it can be conclusively asserted that the appended “verse(s)” do not fit snugly to the flow of the chapter (Mark 16) and therefore it incurs sufficient proofs on its human production. No surprise, gospel manuscript authority D.C. Parker notes as follows:

 

It has been pointed out that verse 9 sits very uneasily with verses 1-8. There is no resumption of the theme of fear and silence in verse 8, and Mary Magdalene is introduced afresh in verse 9, as though she were not already on stage.” (D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997), p.138)]

 

The very fact that verse 9 sits “very uneasily”with verses 1-8 alludes that it has been extrapolated. This extrapolation also paved path for the gospels to be written in future; as such none of the younger gospels committed the mistake of not providing eyewitnesses accounts of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection! (Don’t we learn from our past mistakes?)

But one important query still lingers that why were the Bible redactors and compilers (corrupters?) so keen on adding the extraneous-verses of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) post resurrection personal interaction with his disciples? Why was it not enough when verses 1 through 8 informed that Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised?  The answer of this query takes us to the next analysis of next objective.

 

Objective 2: To further corroborate that Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised

As already mentioned, verses 1 through 8 did inform under God’s “inspiration” that Jesus (peace be upon him) had been (allegedly) resurrected yet there was need forfurther corroboration to resurrection phenomenon. This was so because thebelieving disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) were in no mood to believe the resurrection news of Jesus (peace be upon him) from their own colleagues,vicariously:

 

He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.’ “Then the women remembered his words, returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.But the apostles thought that what the women said was NONSENSE, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the grave cloths but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:6-12)

 

They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it. (Luke 16:13)

 

The disbelief of the disciples led Jesus (peace be upon him) to scold them:

 

Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. He said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.  (Mark 16: 14-15)

And,

And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened. Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb, but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him.” Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said!Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?” And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets. (Luke 24:21-27)

“Apostle” Thomas, the “My-Lord-My-God” fellow, put an even stringent condition to believe in the resurrection. He would not have believed unless he would put his fingers through Jesus’ (peace be upon him) wounds!

 

One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 24-25)

 

We need to wait here for a moment to think why were the “loyal” disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) had so much difficulty in accepting his resurrection (?).

 

Notice that there is one similarity in Luke’s account of disbelieving disciples and in John’s account of disbelieving Thomas. In both the narratives the audience was bereaved of firsthand experience. In Lukan narrative it was the ladies who gavesecondhand information about resurrection to the other disciples and in John’s account, it was the other disciples giving vicarious information to Thomas!

On the foregoing, it can be deduced that disciples tangibly wanted to see and experience Jesus (peace be upon him) to believe in his resurrection. D.C. Parker asserts the same:

 

“…that the disciples did not believe (neither source has such a reference), and that when Jesus does appear, he rebukes ‘their unbelief and hardness of heart’. It is only when they see and speak with Jesus that they believe.(D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997),p.140)

 

However, this exact condition of firsthand experience was missing in Mark’s shorter version! None of the disciples, including the ladies at the site (tomb), had firsthand experience; which in turn implies that they hitherto had no belief in resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him)!

 

In order words, had Mark’s gospel ended at verse 8 it would have established beyond doubts that none of the disciples ever believed in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him); which in turn would have casted sufficient doubt on the death of Jesus (peace be upon him); which in turn would have rendered crucifixion and Christianity to be dubious!

 

Nevertheless, since Paul’s epistles, which predated Mark’s gospel, had already set “orthodox doctrine” that without resurrection there was Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:14), this left the “custodians” of the so-called “Injeel” to append Mark’s “incomplete” and doctrinally menacing shorter account with verses tailor made to fit in succinctly with Paul’s theology. Now, as expected, disciples were portrayed to have had firsthand experience of the “risen” Jesus (peace be upon him)!

All this fast and loose was done to render credit to the alleged crucifixion (and resurrection) which, otherwise, even first of all gospels and Christians doubts!

In fact Parker takes a step forward to expose the truth that the additions were made in the gospel to tailor it according to particular (Pauline) agenda:

“This aside, the full contents of verses 9—20 provide a programme which, when interpreted in a certain way, is extremely congenial to a particular kind of conservative Christianity. Conversely, those who argue that these verses are spurious might be charged by their opponents with a hidden ‘liberalising’ motive.

And,

The Long Ending is best read as a cento or pastiche of material gathered from the other Gospels and from other sources, slanted towards a particular interpretation. This may be demonstrated by going through it verse by verse. Verses 15-16: In Matthew 28.19 the disciples are commanded ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ The same pair of verbs, ‘preach’/’baptise5, is found here. The main idea here (beliefs-baptism—salvation) may be seen as a development of what is found in the New Testament (see Acts 16.31 and 33; 1 Peter 3·2ΐ)”. (D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997),pp.103-131, p.140)

 

Not merely did Parker assert that the extraneous-verses have strong doctrinal biases but he even recognizes the sources which fathered theses “verses”. He points out that other gospels and epistles laid the framework for the extraneous-verses. This in itself raises several questions on the textual integrity of the New Testament.

 

The later/younger gospels had narratives for firsthand experience of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection quite in line with Pauline theology. Thus it was not too difficult to mould the odd one out – gospel of Mark – so that its “Long ending is best read as a cento or pastiche of material gathered from other Gospels and from other sources, slanted towards a particular interpretation”.

 

In the wake of the above sleight maneuverings, well known author Kenneth Cragg claims the following:

“There is condensation and editing, there is choice production and witness.The Gospels have come through the mind of the church behind the authors. They represent experience and history.” (Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, p. 277)

Respectful resource Encyclopedia Brittanica has a similar note to chime:

“Yet, as a matter of FACTEVERY BOOK of the New Testament, with the exception of the four great Epistles o St. Paul is at present more or less the subject of controversy and interpolations (inserted verses) are asserted even in these.” (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 12th Edition, Vol. 3, p.643)

 

Also remember that Paul’s various epistles primarily stressing on the (alleged) resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) and consequent salvation thereby were already available and in circulation among various Christian churches all around the area yet Mark did not include confirmed firsthand resurrection phenomenon in his “gospel”. This concerns whether Mark believed in the resurrection of Christ (peace be upon him); whether resurrection incident was a mass phenomenon; whether resurrection was indispensible part of Christianity, if so, Mark would have never missed to mention it especially given the unbelieving attitude of the “believers” and direct guidance from “divine” Holy “Ghost”. On this note, Bible Professor Dr. A. Meyer (2.) makes a rather justified assertion:

 

“If by ‘Christianity’  we understand faith in Jesus Christ as the heavenly son of God, who did not belong to Earthly humanity, but who lived in the divine likeness and glory, who came down  from heaven to earth, who entered humanity and took upon himself a human form through a virgin, that he might make propitiation for men’s sins by his own blood on the cross, who was them awakened  from death and raised to God as the Lord of his own people, who believe in him, who hears their prayers, guards and leads them, who shall come again to judge the world, who will cast down all the foes of God, and will bring his people with him unto the house of heavenly light so that they may become like his glorified body – if this is Christianity, the[n] such a Christianity was founded by Paul and not by Jesus.” (Meyer, Jesus or Paul, p. 122)

 

Finally, and very importantly, as if stating distinctly on the subject in hand – the (alleged) resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) – the group of scholars at the “Jesus Seminar” claim that death, resurrection and vicarious atonement are mythical roles attributed falsely to historical Jesus (peace be upon him):

 

“Biblical scholars and theologians alike have learned to distinguish the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. It has been a painful lesson for both the church and scholarship. The distinction between the two figures is the difference between a historical person who lived in a particular time and place and a figure who has been assigned a mythical role, in which he descends from heaven to rescue mankind and, of course, eventually return there.” (Jesus Seminar, Robert W. Funk and Roy W. Hoover (translators and eds.), The Five Gospels (1993), pp.533-537)

Conclusion

  

According to the methodology of the best and earliest Christians – the “apostles” themselves –  they were not supposed to believe in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) unless they themselves had a firsthand witness of it.

 

Now, as per best and earliest version of the oldest of all gospels – the gospel of Mark – not a single disciple ever had firsthand witness of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) purported resurrection phenomenon. This expressly implied that none of the earliest Christians ever believed in the (alleged) resurrection.

 

However, such a Jesus (peace be upon him) tradition emanating from oldest gospel itself contradicted Pauline theology which predated it and dominated Christianity. Therefore, a concerted effort was required to add an appendix to “God’s inspiration” itself. (Of course, this fast and loose had its own gauche limitations.) And this is exactly we wanted to prove that although gospel of Mark is not specifically an “inspiration” identified by Qur’an yet even it was not spared of tampering. Menmodified it to suit their sectarian belief (3.).

 

Indeed God spoke the truth in this regard:

 

Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:”This is from Allah,” to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.(Qur’an 2:79, Yusuf Ali’s Quran Translation)

 

If such is the state of affairs with the gospel(s) then, as a non – Christian, we feel it is extremely dangerous to venture our souls and eternal salvation in the so-called “Injeel” purported by missionaries.   

Notes:

  • All biblical text taken from Good News Edition.

Footnote:

 (1.) Mark has not just authored the “canonical” gospel. There have been other gospels around like the “Secret Gospel of Mark” which is also authoritatively attributed to him by scholars.

 (2.) He is Professor of Theology at Zurich University

(3.) What we now know as “orthodox” Christianity was not the only form of Christianity in the incipient days of the churches. Many Christian groups did not endorse Paul or his coined doctrines. Whereas some rejected him as a corruptor of religion of Jewish patriarchs while others hardly believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) let alone the salvation, if any, it entailed.

Does Christianity really necessitate ransom for salvation?

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

A comparative examination of vicarious atonement and repentance in biblical light

Question Mark

 

Prelude

 

In the recent past Muslim Apologist and Speaker, Paul Williams engaged in a debate regarding the concept of Sin and Salvation in Islam and Christianity. Because the debate was very successful this made Christian Apologist Sam Shamoun to write “responses” (12 (1.)).

In doing so, Shamoun conveniently ignored scores of biblical passages which raises question whether Christianity actually require alleged death of Jesus (peace be upon him) for forgiveness of sins and subsequent salvation. We would, inshallah, document all of them in this paper for a neutral perusal.

 

Introduction

 

Jews believed in a concept of forgiveness called “Mehilah” which meant mercifulcancellation of sins without any need of indemnification or clearance of debts:

 

Mehilah is a technical, legal term that applies when the lender of money forgoes or waives all or part of the debt another person owes him. When applied to the consequence of sin, mehilah is the remission or cancellation of the punishment and any of the legal consequences of the sinful act.” (Forgiving the Unforgivable?)

Jews never had the concept of vicarious atonement for their sins, on the contrary, they had a lot of confidence and belief in their “Teshuva” – sincere repentance. They believed that sincere “Teshuva” is never denied by God:

 

“Rabbi Johanan explained:Were it not written in the text, it would be impossible for us to say such a thing; this verse teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, drew his tallit (prayer shawl) round Him like the prayer leader of a congregation and showed Moses the order of prayer. He said to him:“Whenever Israel sin, let them carry out this service before Me (i.e., read these passages containing the thirteen attributes of God’s mercy), and I will forgive them. And Rabbi Judah added that the verse, “Behold I make a covenant” (34:10) recorded just a few verses later, indicates that the revelation of these thirteen attributes actually formed a covenant that guaranteed that the people would never be turned away without forgiveness. This formula is the central theme of the penitential Selihot prayers recited during the High Holy Day season, culminating with Yom Kippur. (Forgiving the Unforgivable?)

 

From the forgoing, quite naturally, Jews never felt any real need for somebody to be hanged for their sins, contrariwise, they reclined to oft – repentance:

Essentially, God is a forgiving God who desires the repentance of sinners. Three times a day during the daily prayers, Jews recite the blessings: Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah and bring us near, our King, to Your service. Cause us to return to You in perfect repentance. Blessed are You, God, Who desires repentance. Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned. Pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed. For You pardon and forgive. Blessed are You, God, the gracious One Who pardons abundantly.This theme is repeated again and again throughout the liturgy. The rabbis even saw divine kindness and mercy reflected in God’s Name itself. The Tetragrammaton, YHWH, isused as God’s Name when He manifests His middat ha-rahamim (love, kindness and forgiveness), whereas Elohim is used to designate His attribute of justice.” (Forgiving the Unforgivable?)

 

They derived these teachings from their sacred scriptures. Consider the following biblical verses which stress on the concept of repentance and sub-sequent anticipation of forgiveness:

 

“Return to the LORD your God, people of Israel. Your sin has made you stumble and fall. Return to the LORD, and let this prayer be your offering to him: “Forgive all our sins and accept our prayer, and we will praise you as we have promised. Assyria can never save us. We will never again say to our idols that they are our God. O LORD, you show mercy to those who have no one else to turn to.” (Hosea 14:2)

 

Note assiduously that according to so called biblical prophet Hosea and his community, the prayer – (“this prayer”) – of repentance and guilt was the“offering” to God for forgiveness of sins; the “offering” was not the alleged, vicarious sacrifice of Messiah (peace be upon him).

Jews had no belief that they would be denied forgiveness if they did not believe in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged death, rather, they believed that if they misuse God’s oft forgiving capacity by repeatedly sinning then their repentances would be repealed and they would not be forgiven:

 

“Nevertheless, despite God’s desire for repentanceHis essential capacity for mercy and His identification as a God of forgiveness, He Himself may withhold forgiveness at times. This is so when a penitent has not truly repented or if he uses the future possibility of penitence as an excuse to justify his illicit behavior, as the Mishnah, Yoma 85b, indicates, If one says, “I shall sin and repent, sin and repent,” no opportunity will be given to him to repent.23 [If one says], “I shall sin and the Day of Atonement will procure atonement for me,” the Day of Atonement procures for him no atonement.” (Forgiving the Unforgivable?)

 

 

While Jews derived their concepts of “Mehilah” – cancellation of debts and“Teshuva” – sincere repentance from Bible, as we would shortly see more of it in this paper, Saul who changed his Jewish name to Gentile Paul – contravened Jewish Scriptures to derive Gentile concepts of forgiveness through offering of flesh and blood of innocent.

Paul preached that sins would not be forgiven unless blood and flesh of Jesus (peace be upon him) is offered to God:

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22)

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Gal 1:3-4)

 

 

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Eph 1:7)

 

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Tit 2:13-14)

 

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (1 Co 15:14)

And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Col 1:20)

(King James Version, e-Sword)

In the above passages, Paul assumes that the only way sin of mankind can be forgiven and subsequent salvation can be attained, is through the blood shed of Jesus (peace be upon him).

 

Nevertheless, Paul by writing the above passages and Christian apologists by appealing to the above verses reject the teachings of multiple Old Testament (OT) Prophets and New Testament (NT) Prophet – Jesus (peace be upon him) himself. As we are going to see, Paul failed to realize that their (OT prophet’s) deity was less an exacting accountant and more a merciful God.

 

Pre – Pauline Teachings on Repentance and Forgiveness

 

For instance, consider the sayings of OT prophet Joel:

 

“But even now,” says the LORD, “repent sincerely, and return to me with fasting and weeping and mourning. Let your broken heart show your sorrow; tearing your clothes is not enough.” Come back to the LORD your GodHe is kind and full of mercy; he is patient and keeps his promise; he isalways ready to forgive and not punish. Perhaps the LORD your God will change his mind and bless you with abundant crops. Then you can offer him corn and wine. (Joel 2: 12-14)

Notice that unlike Paul who nails the forgiveness of sins on the cross, Jewish prophet Joel emphatically states that God is too kind, forgiving and considerate to accept sincere repentance and blot out sins! Joel’s God invites sinners to Himself so that He may forgive their sins! God of the OT does not need any cross to forgive sins, His mere virtue of kindness is enough amalgamated with the fasting, weeping and mourning of sinners.

Observe that God does not instruct Joel’s community to return with belief in the alleged, would-be crucifixion of Christ (peace be upon him) but with (i) fasting (ii) weeping (iii) and mourning!

In fact we do find God forgiving sins by blessing Joel’s community with abundance of crops production:

“…Have pity on your people, LORD. Do not let other nation despise us and mock us by saying, “Where is your God?’” Then the LORD showed concern for his landhe had mercy on his people. He answered them: “Now I am going to give you corn and wine and olive-oil, and you will be satisfied. Other nations will not despise you. I will remove the locust army that came from the north and will drive some of them in to the desert.” (Joel 2: 17-20)

 

Observe that God of the OT did not forgive Joel’s community because they believed that one day Messiah (peace be upon him) would be allegedly crucified, but they were forgiven solely on God’s mercy when they pleaded to him for “pity”.

Another noticeable point is that locusts has always been one of the means through which the God of OT has wrecked His wrath on the wrong doers,

“You will sow plenty of seed, but reap only a small harvest, because the locusts will eat your crops.” (Deuteronomy 28:38)

“All your trees and crops will be devoured by insects.” (Deuteronomy 28:42)

“I will give you back what you lost in the years when swarms of locusts ate your crops. It was I who sent this army against you.”  (Joel 2:25)

 

Nevertheless, God drove locusts away as a sign of His mercy and forgiveness on Joel’s community:

 

I will give you back what you lost in the years when swarms of locusts ate your crops. It was I who sent this army against you.” (Joel 2:25)

 

However, Paul’s influence makes Trinitarian apologists like Sam Shamoun claim that Christ’s (peace be upon him) vicarious death was the only way their sins can be absolved:

 

“In the first place, the very same Gospels, which these dawagandists pervert in order make them say something contrary to the intended meaning of the inspired authors, are the very same writings which go out of their way to affirm that Jesus’ vicarious death is both necessary and foundational for salvation.” (Was Jesus’ sacrificial death necessary for the forgiveness of sins?)

However, contrary to what Paul teaches and Shamoun’s claim, God of the OT had entirely different concepts for the forgiveness of sins and subsequent salvation.

 

For OT Prophets (and their community) Christ’s (peace be upon him) vicarious death was not at all required, let alone, “foundational for salvation”, since their sins were always welcomed to be forgiven as we saw above how Joel’s community was forgiven!

 

If Jesus’ vicarious death is (really) both necessary and foundational for salvation then how was Joel’s community forgiven without it? Seems it was not so “foundational” for them.

 

Consider another offer of forgiveness. This time the community of OT Prophet Ezekiel (peace be upon him) was to be forgiven without Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice:

 

“Now, mortal man, I am making you a watchman for the nation of Israel. You must pass on to them the warnings I give you. If I announce that an evil man is going to die but you do not warn him to change his ways so that he can save his life, then he will die, still a sinner, and I will hold you responsible for his death. If you do warn an evil man and he does not stop sinning, he will die, still a sinner, but your life will be spared.”

 

Individual Responsibility

 

The LORD spoke to me. “Mortal man.” he said, “repeat to the Israelites what they are saying: We are burdened with our sins and the wrongs we have done. We are wasting away. How can we live? Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing a sinner die. I would rather see him stop sinning and live. Israel, stop the evil you are doing. Why do you want to die?

I may warn an evil man that he is going to die, but if he stops sinning and does what is right and good – for example, if he returns the security he took for a loan or gives back what he stole – if he stops sinning andfollows the laws that give lifehe will not die, but live. I will forgive the sins he has committed, and he will live because he has done what is right and good. And your people say that what I do isn’t right! No, it’s their way that isn’t right. When a righteous man stops doing god and starts doing evil, he will die for it. When an evil man gives up sinning and does what is right and good, he has saved his life. But Israel, you say that what I do isn’t right. I am going to judge you by what you do.” (Ezekiel 33: 7-11, 14-20)

 

The verses teach the following:

 

(1)No matter how big the sins and wrongs be, “Life can be saved” or in other words, forgiveness/salvation can be achieved by (2) turning away from sins, doing good deeds and (3) following the “Law that give life”, (in other words “law” is not a “curse” as Paul erroneously assumes (c.f. Galatians 3: 13) but a blessing) and then (4) God “will forgive the sins they have committed”.

 

If God is/was willing to forgive even heavy burden of sins by virtue of His attribute, sinner’s repentance, acts of good deeds and obedience to Law – then was it required for Ezekiel’s community to believe in any vicarious atonement which wasallegedly going to take place thousands of years later? Or, was it required for any person to late“volunteer” himself for crucifixion for sins of others?

 

It is not surprising that rather than any mention of vicarious atonement, Bible compilers gave the sub-heading to these passages as “Individual Responsibility”– not Christ’s (peace be upon him) responsibility to bear the burden of others!

 

Another important observation is the stress on refraining from evil andencouragement to do good deeds since (5) God will “judge by what you do” – not what Christ (peace be upon him) did (or would do) for them. This also questions Paul’s self made doctrine of mere faith on cross (c.f. Romans 3: 20, 28).

 

Also please observe the stress that sinners should follow the LAW since it gives LIFE. No wonder we found Jesus (peace be upon him) in the New Testament obedient to the Law:

 

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:17-19, King James Version, E-Sword)

 

Even after the assertions of God through biblical Prophet Ezekiel (peace be upon him) and Jesus (peace be upon him), we find Paul contravening the sacred Lawsthereby contradicting Jesus (peace be upon him) also:

 

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (Gal 3:11)

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the LAW. (1Co 15:56)

 

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Rom 3:28)

 

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom 3:20)

 

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. (Heb 7:19)

(King James, e-Sword Version)

 

Observe that for Paul, “Law” is not just impotent but that sin gathers its viability from God’s sacred Laws! When a person (Paul) believes that Law provides viability to sins (!) then he would certainly like to do away and water down its benefits and coin a new doctrine of forgiveness through cross – even though God asserts that Law provides “life” (2.).

 

Another notable facet, as mentioned earlier, that God will judge mortals according to their deeds, however, Paul again infringes God. Consider the biblical verse where God stresses on personal good deeds:

 

But Israel, you say that what I do isn’t right. I am going to judge you by whatyou do (Ezekiel 33:20)

 

Compare it against Paul’s words:

 

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Rom 3:28)

 

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom 3:20)

 

Hardly did Paul realized that he was even contravening his “lord and savior” since Jesus (peace be upon him) for salvation, (1.) did not place any weightage on cross (2.) gave much importance to deeds. As is illustrated from the following statements of Jesus (peace be upon him):

 

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandmentsHe saith unto him, Which? Jesus said,Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  (Mat 19:16-19, King James, e-Sword Version)

 

Observe that according to Jesus (peace be upon him), not Paul, salvation can be achieved by (i) not murdering (ii) abstinence from adultery (iii) abstinence from theft (iv) abstinence from false witnessing (v) honoring parents (vi) and loving our neighbor. Al-hamdolillah.

 

Starkly, Jesus (peace be upon him) did not enlist belief on his alleged cross to attain salvation which for Shamoun is “both necessary and foundational for salvation”. Seems that for Christ (peace be upon him), cross was neither necessary nor foundational for salvation!

 

Christians need to choose between Shamoun and Jesus (peace be upon him) – I will put my money on Jesus (peace be upon him).

 

No matter what God ordained, Paul always seems to contravene Him and yet he is ironically purported to be a divinely appointed “apostle”! More on this topic in our future papers, inshallah. However, for the time being we would direct readers to the following related articles:

 

 

Bible does not stop with biblical prophets Joel and Ezekiel only (peace be upon him) but even Jeremiah taught the concepts of forgiving God through repentance from sins.

In the following verses observe the ghastly sins committed by Jeremiah’s community:

 

But the worship of Baalthe god of shame, has made us lose flocks and herds, sons and daughters – everything that our ancestors have worked for since ancient times. We should lie down in shame and let our disgrace cover us. We and our ancestors have always sinned against the LORD our God; we have never obeyed his commands.” (Jeremiah 3:24-25)

 

Even after the worship of the idol – “Baal”, witness the love, mercy and forgiving capacity of God – Almighty:

 

“The LORD says, “People of Israel, if you want to turn, then turn back to me. If you are faithful to me and remove the idols I hate, it will be right for you to swear by my name. Then all the nations will ask me to bless them,and they will praise me.” (Jeremiah 4:1-2)

 

Notice that even when the Israelites acceded that they have “ALWAYS” sinned against God by worshipping others besides Him and “NEVER” ever obeyed His command, the forgiving God responded by embracing them “BACK TO HIM (SELF)”.  God had no need for Jesus’ (peace be upon him) blood to forgive even the most hideous and perennial sin of worshipping BAAL!

In fact God confirms through Jeremiah that if sinners mend their ways then He would forgive them (without any need of innocent’s blood):

 

“If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would.” (Jeremiah 18:8)

 

The only ground on which God would not afflict punishment on the sinning nations is when it wouldturn from its evil. Starkly, God did not need the alleged cross to forgive sins.

 

According to yet another biblical figure, Samuel, God – The most merciful will blot out even the most heinous sin if heartily repented for:

 

“Samuel said to the people of Israel, “If you are going to turn to the LORD with all your hearts, you must get rid of all the foreign gods and the images of the goddess Astarte. Dedicate yourselves completely to the LORD and worship only him, and he will rescue you from the power of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7: 3-4)

 

Notice that according to Samuel (also), God “will rescue” the Israelites not because they believed Jesus (peace be upon him) would allegedly die on cross someday and subsequently their sins would be forgiven, rather, they would be forgiven if they turned from sins “with all your (their) hearts”. Thus, here again, a strong importance is laid on heartfelt repentance and God’s infinite mercy rather than any alleged cross!

In fact, at one place God explicitly says that to forgive sins He does not needsacrifices but emotions of heart:

 

“I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt – offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goatsLet the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God,” (Psalms 50:8-14)

 

Next we have very important chapter from Psalms where in important OT prophet David (peace be upon him) not only teaches how to repent but he also puts forth the conditions how sins could be forgiven:

A Prayer for Forgiveness

Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant loveBecause of your great mercy wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. I have sinned against you – only against you – and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me; and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take yourholy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. You do not want sacrifices, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt-offerings. My sacrifice is a humble spiritO God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart.” (Psalms 51:1-17)

 

Notice the reasons why David (peace be upon him) expects forgiveness from God:

 

(1.)  Because   of God’s constant love.

(2.)  Because of God’s great mercy.

 

David (peace be upon him) did not had any third reason of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged, would-be, sacrifice for the forgiveness of his sins. In fact, he pleads God to “close His eyes from his sins.”

 

Why would David (peace be upon him) request God to “close His eyes from his sins.” if he (David) believed that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) would pay the price for his sins?  If David (peace be upon him) had ransom currency in his hand then he would look into the eyes of God (so to say) rather than pleading to Him for mercy. A request for closure of eyes is positive proof that David (peace be upon him) expected mercy rather than believing that his sins would be re-directed to Jesus (peace be upon him).

 

The truth of the matter is that David (peace be upon him) never believed in vicarious atonement; for him, his repentance and God’s abundant mercy was enough. As a matter of fact, rather than appealing God through Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged, would be sacrifice, David (peace be upon him) asserted that God does not require sacrifices but He looks out for “humble spirits” in repentance. If David (peace be upon him) believed in Christ’s (peace be upon him) would be, alleged, sacrifice then why did he assert that “my sacrifice is (my) humble spirit”?

 

It gets no better for apologists like Shamoun because according to ‘Christian’ Scholars of the Bible, not Jews or Muslims, the only way sinners can be saved is, not through cross, but through the forgiveness and mercy of God:

 

“The only hope of a sinner when crushed with the consciousness of sin is the mercy of Godand the plea for that mercy will be urged in the most earnest and impassioned language that the mind can employ. “Accordingly to thy Iovingkindness.” On the meaning of the word used here, see the notes at Psa 36:7.

 

(a) The “ground” of his hope was the compassion of God:

(b) the “measure” of that hope was His boundless beneficence; or, in other words, he felt that there was need of “all” the compassion of a God. (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Psalms 51:1)

 

Notice that the Christian Commentator candidly accepts that the ONLY hope for sinners is mercy of God, not the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him). Furthermore, this hope of mercy can be achieved not through the belief in alleged cross of Christ (peace be upon him) but through mercy plea “in the most earnest and impassioned language that the mind can employ.” The candid commentator again repeats his message by stating that the “ground” for the hope of mercy is“compassion of God”, not alleged cross of Jesus (peace be upon him). All of this alludes that the forgiveness of God is indispensable than the purported, alleged cross of Messiah (peace be upon him).

 

Moving on with OT prophets, we find God – Almighty promising prophet Isaiah that He always grants sincere repentance (and thus obviating need of any sacrificial death!):

 

“I am the high and holy God, who lives for ever. I live in a high and holy place,but I also live with people who are humble and repentant, so that I can restore their confidence and hope. I gave my people life, and I will notcontinue to accuse them or be angry with them for ever. I was angry with them because of their sin and greed, and so I punished them and abandoned them. But they were stubborn and kept on going their own way. “I have seen how they acted, but I will heal them. I will lead them and help them, and I will comfort those who mourn. I offer peace to all, both near and far! I will heal my people. But evil men are like the restless sea, whose waves never stop rolling in, bringing filth and much. There is no safety for sinners,” says the LORD.” (Isaiah 57:15-21)

 

Notice that according to Prophet Isaiah, not “apostle” Paul, God will not abandon sinners, however, he will “heal his people” – “his people” who are “mournful” and“repentant”. If sinners can be “healed” through “mourning” and “repentance”then is Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged death indispensible, as Paul claims?

 

Observe that the verse says that God will “comfort those who mourn”; it does not says “those who believe in the (alleged) would-be death of Christ (peace be upon him)!

 

Also notice the phrase where it says that “there is no safety for sinners” – from the context, the sinners are the ones who do not humble themselves in repentance and mourning; the verse does not refer sinners to those who do not accept future (alleged) death of Messiah (peace be upon him) like the Muslims! This yet again obviates any necessity of cross.

 

Not just Israelites but even Egyptians, a non-Semitic civilization with no expectation of Messiah (peace be upon him), would also be healed or in other words forgiven, if they repent:

“The LORD will punish the Egyptians, but then he will heal them. They will turn to him, and he will hear their prayers and heal them. (Isaiah 19:22)

 

Notice yet again that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion was not required for the forgiveness of sins and subsequent “healing”. All that Egyptians needed to do is to “turn back”, that is to repent through “prayers”, not belief in alleged would-be sacrifice of Christ (peace be upon him), and then God will forgive them.

 

The Psalmist also asserts that God – Almighty is merciful and ready to forgivewithout any need of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) death (!):

 

You are my God, so be merciful to me; I pray to you all day long. Make your servant glad, O lord, because my prayers go up to you. You are good to us and forgiving.

 

Proud men are coming against me, O God; a gang of cruel men is trying to kill me – people who pay no attention to you But you, O lord, are merciful and loving God, always patient, always kind and faithful. Turn to me and have mercy on me; strengthen me and save me because I serve you, just as my mother did.” (Psalm 86:3-5 & 14-17)

 

Here is something very interesting about this Psalmist. Notice that he requests for forgiveness and mercy not on the grounds that he has believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) would be allegedly crucified some day, rather he expects it becauseof his own good deeds of serving Him alone, as his mother did (!) and due to the merciful nature of God. This is again a positive proof that during OT age, people did not used to rely on vicarious atonement on the contrary, they used to rely on God’s mercy and their good actions much like the Muslims!

 

The people of Prophet Jonah (peace be upon him) – the citizens of Nineveh, deeply rooted in their sins, were also forgiven by God – Almighty, neither on the account of the smallness of their sins nor on the account of their believe in the alleged, would be, death of Christ (peace be upon him) but because of their humbleness, fasting, obedience and repentance shown to God:

“Once again the LORD spoke to Jonah. He said, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to the people the message I have given you.” So Jonah obeyed the LORD and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to walk through it….he proclaimed, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!” The People of Nineveh believed God’s message. So they decided that everyone should fast, and all the people, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth to show that they had repented. When the king of Nineveh heard about it, he got up from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth, and sat down in ashes. He sent out a proclamation to the people of Nineveh: “This is an order from the king and his officials: No one is to eat anything: all persons, cattle, and sheep are forbidden to eat or drink. All persons and animals must wear sackcloth. Everyone must pray earnestly to God and must give up his wicked behavior and his evil actions. Perhaps God will change his mind; perhaps he will stop being angry, and we will not die!”

 

Notice the actions of the Ninevites when they came to know of their imminent destruction. Unlike Trinitarian understanding, they did not cry out that we have believed that someday Messiah (peace be upon him) would be (allegedly) crucified, thus, they should be forgiven. On the other hand, they prayed earnestly, fasted, humbled themselves by wearing sackclothes so much so that even their king did so and gave up their wicked ways.

 

Trinitarians would expect God to proclaim that their (Ninevites’) fasting, prayer etc are useless unless they believed in Messiah’s (alleged) death (peace be upon him) since that is the only way He would forgive their sins, however, contrary to this Pauline belief, a merciful God is ready to forgive freely. As He actually did with the Ninevites:

“God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behavior. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would.” (Jonah 3: 1-10)

 

We need to ponder whether the Ninevites were forgiven due to (belief in) Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged, would-be death or due to God’s free mercy shown on their repentance?

 

Jeremiah also accounts that if people would repent then God would change His mind, in other words, forgive them their sins:

 

“Soon after Jehoiakim son of Josiah became king of Judah, the LORD said to me, “Stand in the court of the Temple and proclaim all I have commanded you to say to the people who come from the towns of Judah to worship there. Do not leave out anything. Perhaps the people will listen and give up their ways. If they do, then I will change my mind about the destruction I plan to bring on them for all their wicked deeds. (Jeremiah 26: 1-3)

 

Very ironically, in the above passage God – Almighty goes out of the way to ordain His prophet to instruct people that He (God) is willing to forgive their sins (“change his mind”) if they mend their ways, compatible with Christian believe, God did not say “if they accept alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)”.

 

Also, notice the yearning and initiative in God’s behalf to forgive their sins – God is found to be reaching out to sinners willingly to forgive their sins; even after this, Trinitarians resonate blindly with Paul that the only way sins can be forgiven is through the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)!

A little later, Jeremiah confirms that if people would give up sinning and repent then God WILL (positive affirmative) forgive them:

“Then I said, “The LORD sent me to proclaim everything that you heard me say against this Temple and against this city. You must change the way you are living and the things you are doing, and must obey the LORD your God. If you do, he will change his mind about the destruction that he said he would bring on you. (Jeremiah 26: 12-13)

 

Furthermore, in the same book of Jeremiah we find yet another instance where merciful God utterly yearning to forgive Israelites when He found them repentant on their sins:

 

I hear the people of Israel say in grief, LORD, we were like an untamed animal, but you taught us to obey. Bring us backwe are ready to return to you the LORD our God. We turned away from you, but soon we wanted to return. After you had punished us, we hung our heads in grief. We were ashamed and disgraced, because we sinned when we were young.’ “Israel, you are my dearest son, the child I love best. Whenever I mention your name, I think of you with love. My heart goes out to you; I will be merciful. Set up signs and mark the road; find again the way by which you left.Come back, people of Israel, come home to the towns you left. How long will you hesitate, faithless people? I have created something new and different, as different as a women protecting a man.” (Jeremiah 31:18-22)

 

Did you feel yearn in God’s heart (so to say) to forgive returning sinners! When Israelites humbled themselves as “untamed animal” and hung their “heads in grief” shame and disgrace, God became extremely compassionate towards this act and called them back over and over again. Being “merciful” towards them with a promise of an entirely new gift and as unique as a “women protecting a man”; no where sinners needed any belief in vicarious atonement to be freely forgiven by God!

 

Through yet another so called OT prophet Amos, God sets easy conditions for His free flowing forgiveness on sinners:

“I know how terrible your sins are and how many crimes you have committed.You persecute good men, take bribes, and prevent the poor from getting justice in the courts. And so, keeping quiet in such evil times is the clever thing to do!

 

Make it your aim to do what is right, not what is evil so that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty really will be with you, as you claim he is. Hate what is evil, love what is right, and see that justice prevails in the courts. Perhaps the LORD will be merciful to the people of this nation who are still left alive.(Amos 5:12-15)

 

It is conspicuous that God would be merciful if the people of Amos were just and upright; yet again there is no need of any vicarious atonement through Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged death.

 

There is even more in the Bible. Trinitarian Apologists like Sam Shamoun who use the book of Isaiah to somehow establish vicarious atonement, conveniently ignores, if not outright discard, the following important passage from it:

 

Turn to the LORD and pray to him, now that he is near. Let the wicked leave their way of life and change their way of thinkingLet them turn to the LORD, our God; He is merciful and quick to forgive“My thoughts.” says the LORD, “are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.

“My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for sowing and food to eat. So also will be the word that I speak – it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do. “You will leave Babylon with joy; you will be led out of the city in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into singing, and the trees will grow where now there are briars; myrtle-trees will come up in place of thorns. This will be a sign that will last for ever, a reminder of what I, the LORD, have done.” (Isaiah 55:6-13)

 

It must be observed that God claims that He is MERCIFUL AND ABUNDANTLY FORGIVING (“quick to forgive”), in other words, He wants to copiously forgive returning sinners; all that sinners are needed to do is to “leave their (wicked) way of life and change their way of thinking”. God absolutely does not put any restrictions on his incessant mercy and forgiveness through sacrifice of any innocent Prophet (peace be upon him). We need to ponder that if God is willing toexcessively forgive solely on His own account then why will He need cross, blood and an innocent?

 

In fact, as a sign of this free out pouring forgiveness and mercy, God would grow“myrtle-trees in place of thorns” not to later nail and belittle it on the cross.

 

Another observable facet to the above passage is that it is human nature not to give things freely but to ask for return, however, merciful God, in the passage, boasts of his free forgiveness by proclaiming that His “ways are different from yours (humans)”.

 

This is an ironical response to Paul – a mortal, who thought that God like mortals would demand blood and flesh of Christ (peace be upon him) to forgive heavy yokes of oft – repeated sins resembling “give and take” policy. However, according to yet another Christian commentator, God was/is ready to forgive freely and abundantly:

 

“For – If any man injure you, especially if he do it greatly and frequently, you are slow and backward to forgive him. But I am ready to forgive all penitents, how many, and great, and numberless soever their sins be.” (John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, Isaiah 55:8)

 

Jewish commentator Solomon Ben Isaac (Rashi) also concurs of the free and unconditional mercy:

 

For My thoughts are not, etc.: My laws are not like the laws of man [lit. flesh and blood]. As for you, whoever confesses in judgment is found guilty, but, as for Me, whoever confesses and gives up his evil way, is granted clemency(Source)

 

It can be deduced that for grant of clemency or forgiveness, unlike the understanding of vicarious atonement, one needs to:

 

  1. Confess his/her sins.
  2. Turn away from sins.
  3. And subsequently, receive clemency/forgiveness of sins.

 

In the above facts, it is hard to insert the concept of vicarious atonement through the alleged death of Messiah (peace be upon him).

 

From the above cited Isaiah verse, esteemed Christian Commentator Albert Barnes (also) postulates pre-requisites to avail salvation. It would be interesting to observe if he gives place to the alleged blood and cross of Christ (peace be upon him). He comments:

 

Let the wicked … – In this verse we are told what is necessary in order to seek God and to return to him, and the encouragement which we have to do it. The first step is for the sinner to forsake his way. He must come to a solemn pause, and resolve to abandon all his transgressions. His evil course; his vices; his corrupt practices; and his dissipated companions, must be forsaken.

 

And the unrighteous man – Margin, “Man of iniquity.” This is a literal translation. The address is made to all people, for all are such.

 

His thoughts – The Hebrew word denotes all that is the object of thought; and the idea is, that the man must abandon his plans and purposes of life. The thoughts, in the sight of a holy God, are not less important than the external deportment; and no man can obtain his favor who is not ready to abandon his erroneous opinions, his pride and vanity, his plans of evil, and his purposes of life that are opposed to God.

 

And let him return unto the Lord – Man, in the Scriptures, is everywhere described as having wandered away from the true God. Religion consists in returning to him for pardon, for consolation, for protection, for support. The true penitent is desirous of returning to him, as the prodigal son returned to his father’s house; the man who loves sin chooses to remain at a distance from God.

 

And to our God – The God of his people; the God of the speaker here. It is the language of those who have found mercy. The idea is, that he who has bestowed mercy on us, will be ready to bestow it on others. ‘We have returned to God. We have had experience of his compassion, and we have such a conviction of his overflowing mercy, that we can assure all others that if they will return to our God, he will abundantly pardon them.’ The doctrine is, that they who have found favor have a deep conviction of the abounding compassion of God, and such a sense of the fullness of his mercy, that they are disposed to offer the assurance to all others, that they may also obtain full forgiveness. Compare Rev 22:17 – ‘And let him that heareth say, Come.’

 

For he will abundantly pardon – Margin, as Hebrew, ‘Multiply to pardon.’ He abounds in forgiveness. This is the conviction of those who are pardoned; this is the promise of inestimable worth which is made to all who are willing to return to God. On the ground of this promise all may come to him, and none who come shall be sent empty away. (Albert Barnes’ notes on the Bible, Isaiah 55:7)

 

It is observable that Barnes felt no need to mention the alleged cross of Christ (peace be upon him) to forgive sins, on the contrary, he states that sinners need to return to God as the “prodigal son” returned to his father. Now, this father exacted no price from his squandered son to forgive him, rather he merely forgave him, accepted him and went out of the way to organize a feast for him!

 

Book of Proverbs also has the criterions for free mercy without any conditions of cross:

 

“You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up; then God will show MERCY to you.” (Proverbs 28:13)

 

Once again, to have “success” one needs to (i) Confess his/her sins (ii) Turn away from them (iii) subsequently, God will show “mercy” and forgive sins.

 

Did you notice if God required any human sacrifice for forgiveness! Rather His forgiveness comes out “freely, fully, without any grudges” or reserves even on the most hideous of sins.

 

Not merely Jewish Rashi but even much celebrated Christian scholars John Gill, who does believe in vicarious atonement, agrees that God does and can forgive sinsfreely without the need any human sacrifice:

 

In some things there may be a likeness between the thoughts of God and the thoughts of men, as to the nature of them: thoughts are natural and essential to them both; they are within them, are internal acts, and unknown to others, till made known; but then the thoughts of men are finite and limited, whereas the thoughts of the Lord are infinite and boundless; men’s thoughts have a beginning, but the Lord’s have none; though not so much the nature as the quality of them is here intended: the thoughts of men are evil, even the imagination of their thoughts, yea, every imagination is, and that always and only so; but the thoughts of God are holy, as appears from his purposes and covenant, and all his acts of grace, in redemption, calling, and preparing his people for glory: the thoughts of men, as to the object of them, are vain, and nothing worth; their thoughts and sentiments of things are very different from the Lord’s, as about sin, concerning Christ, the truths of the Gospel, the people of God, religion, holiness, and a future state, and in reference to the business of salvation; they think they can save themselves; that their own works of righteousness are sufficient to justify them; their privileges and profession such, that they shall be saved; their wisdom, riches, and honour, a security to them from damnation: however, that their sincere obedience, with repentance for what is amiss, will entitle them to happiness: but the thoughts of God are the reverse of all this; particularly with respect to pardoning mercy their thoughts are different; carnal men think of mercy, but not of justice, and of having pardoning mercy in an absolute way, and not through Christ, and without conversion and repentance; and so this is a reason why men’s thoughts are to be forsaken, because so very unlike to the Lord’s. OR else these words are to be considered as an argument, proving that God does abundantly pardon all returning sinners; since he is not like men, backward to forgive, especially great and aggravated crimes, but is ready, free, and willing to forgive, even those of the most aggravated circumstances.

 

Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; the ways which God prescribes and directs men to walk in are different from theirs; his are holy, theirs unholy; his are plain, theirs crooked; his are ways of light, theirs ways of darkness; his are pleasant, theirs not so, at least in the issue; his lead to life, theirs to death; and therefore there is good reason why they should leave their evil ways, and walk in his. Moreover, the ways which he takes in the salvation of men are different from those which they, naturally pursue, and especially in the pardon of sin; he pardons freely, fully, without any reserve, or private grudge, forgetting as well as forgiving.(John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Isaiah 55:8)

 

 

It is very interesting and ironical to note that John Gill, a proponent of vicarious atonement, firstly defends forgiveness through Christ (peace be upon him), however, he continues to decidedly assert that the verse “proves” God forgives incessantly to all returning sinners (why?) since He is unlike niggardly men“backward to forgive especially GREAT and AGGRAVATED CRIMES” ; He does not pardons on the basis of someone else’s (alleged) sacrificial death but He forgives freely, fully, WITHOUT ANY RESERVE OR PRIVATE GRUDGE, keeps nothing in His mind!

As we saw that a returning sinner is forgiven freely and “FULLY” by the outpouring of a loving and merciful God then is Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged death really required?

In fact Paul alludes that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) (alleged) death is in vain if there is free flowing and unconditional forgiveness of God:

 

“I refuse to reject the grace of God. But if a person is put right with God through the Law, it means that Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)

 

The book of Isaiah is far from over. We quote yet another passage from it:

 

“Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” (Isa 43: 24-25, King James Version, e-Sword version.)

 

Unlike Christian theology where sins are forgiven because of Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged death’s sake, in the above passage, God emphatically asserts that He forgives sins of HIS OWN SAKE!

 

Albert Barnes provides a very unlike Christian commentary on the above verses where he puts no stress on the alleged crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him):

 

“I, even I, am he – This verse contains a gracious assurance that their sins would be blotted out, and the reason why it would be done. The pronoun ‘I’ is repeated to make it emphatic, as in Isa 43:11. Perhaps also God designs to show them the evil of the sins which are mentioned in the previous verses, by the assurance that they were committed against him who alone could forgive, and who had promised them pardon. The passage also reminds them, that it was God alone who could pardon the sins of which, as a nation, they had been guilty.

 

That blotteth out thy transgressions – This metaphor is taken from the custom of keeping accounts, where, when a debt is paid, the charge is blotted or cancelled. Thus God says he blotted out the sins of the Jews. He cancelled them. He forgave them. Of course, when forgiven, punishment could not be exacted, and he would treat them as pardoned; that is, as his friends.

 

For mine own sake – Not because you deserve it, or have any claim, or that it would not be right to punish you. Not even primarily to promote your happiness and salvation, but for my sake;

 

1. To show the benevolence of my character;

2. To promote my glory by your forgiveness and salvation (see Eze 36:22).

 

And will not remember thy sins – They shall be forgiven. Hezekiah Isa 38:17 expresses the same idea by saying ‘thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.’ We may learn from this verse:

 

  1. That it is God only who can pardon sin. How vain, then, is it for man to attempt it! How wicked for man to claim the prerogative! And yet it is an essential part of the papal system that the Pope and his priests have the power of remitting the penalty of transgression.

 

2.     That this is done by God solely for his own sake. It is not,

 

(a) because we have any claim to it, for then it would not be pardon,but justice.

(b) because we have any power to compel God to forgive, for who can contend with him, and how could mere power procure pardon? It is not

(c) because we have any merit, for then also it would be justice, and we have no merit. Nor is it

(d) primarily in order that we may be happy, for our happiness is a matter not worthy to be named, compared with the honor of God. But it is solely for his own sake – to promote his glory – to show his perfections – to evince the greatness of his mercy and compassion – and to show his boundless and eternal love.

 

3. They who are pardoned should live to his glory, and not to themselves. For that they were forgiven, and it should be the grand purpose of their lives so to live as to show forth the goodness, compassion, and love of that merciful Being who has blotted out their sins.

 

4. If people are ever pardoned, they must come to God – and to God alone. They must come, not to justify themselves, but to confess their crimes. And they must come with a willingness that God should pardon them on just such terms as he pleases; at just such a time as he pleases; and solely with a view to the promotion of his own glory. Unless they have this feeling, they never can be forgiven, nor should they be forgiven.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Isaiah 43:25)

 

There are various important details to be noted from the above exegesis. Firstly, the merciful God “blotted out, cancelled and forgave” the heinous sins of the Israelites and by doing so God not only evinced His glory (as a God of mercy), His“compassion, boundless and eternal love” but God also made the sinning Jews His “friends” and awarded them “salvation”. Did you notice the Jews wereforgiven, made friends and awarded salvation (!) without so need of belief in cross or vicarious atonement.

Secondly, Christian apologists claim that justice demanded (alleged) death of Christ (peace be upon him) since God is both merciful and just. Through Christ’s (peace be upon him) (alleged) death Christians can claim their salvation. However, God out of his “boundless mercy”, not justice, is willing to forgive sins without any claim on Him: “…because we (do not) have any claim to it, for then it would not be pardon, but justice.

 

Another Christian Scholar accepts that God has no other reason (of cross etc) but of His own goodness He forgives sins (!):

 

For mine own sake – In the pardon of sin God can draw no reason but from his own infinite goodness. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Isaiah 43:25)

If the Divine God forgives out of his own “infinite goodness” then it has to obviate all econcepts of ransom offerings to God otherwise it will belittle and devoid God off his divine attribute of “INFINITE goodness”.

 

Till now we have seen how God shows His merciful and forgiving nature by freely and unconditionally pardoning sinners thereby obviating the eccentric notion of atonement through alleged crucifixion.

 

In the next section we would see those biblical verses which out rightly negates Christ (peace be upon him) taking on sins of mankind upon himself.

 

These set of verses teaches, as we would soon observe, that each one has a personal responsibility towards his/her sins; if a person sins then s/he personally needs to repent rather than finding a scapegoat in Jesus (peace be upon him) to pass the burden on.

 

Personal Responsibility – Not Christ’s (peace be upon him)

 

We read in Deuteronomy, Godnot a mortal Paul, providing the following Law:

 

“Parents are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their children, and children are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their parents; a person is to be put to death only for a crime he himself has committed.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)

 

“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deu 24:16, King James, e-Sword version)

 

No stodgy passages are needed for the above limpidly clear verses. Each sinner is responsible for his own sins; he can either repent or die in that state – God will deal with him accordingly. Son cannot take Father’s sin on himself, even if he wants to! yet Christians claim that son (of man) took sins of others!

We also have a similar message in the so called book of Kings where Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) is pleading to God:

 

“When a person is accused of wronging another and is brought to your altar in this Temple to take an oath that he is innocent, O LORD, listen in heaven and judge your servants. Punish the guilty one as he deserves, and acquit the one who is innocent.” (1 Kings 8: 31-32)

 

Finally, we have important and famous (3.)  Ezekiel (peace be upon him) verses:

“But you ask: ‘Why shouldn’t the son suffer because of his father’s sin?’The answer is that the son did what was right and good. He kept my laws and followed them carefully, and so he will certainly live. It is the one who sins who will die. A son is not to suffer because of his father’s sins, nor a father because of the sins of his son. A good man will be rewarded for doing good, and an evil man will suffer for the evil he does.

If an evil man stops sinning and keeps my laws, if he does what is right and good, he will not die; he will certainly live. All his sins will be forgiven, and he will live, because he did what is right. Do you think I enjoy seeing an evil man die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see him repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:19-23)

 

Although the verses are lucidly clear, however, very important deductions are to be taken from them.

 

Notice that (1.) through Prophet Ezekiel (peace be upon him), God defends the notion why SON should NOT be punished for the sins of the FATHER (!)because son is/was righteous and did what was good thus, he should not bear the sins of father.

 

To further support His divine Law: Punishment to un-repenting guilty and Safety to innocent; God states that He will not pardon bloodshed of innocent:

 

“And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.” (2Ki 24:4, King James Version, e-Sword)

 

If we apply the same principle of “Individual Responsibility” (Ezekiel 18) betweenson (Jesus) and father (Adam) then Jesus (peace be upon him) should not be afflicted for the so called “sins” of Adam (peace be upon him), especially, when God will not pardon shedding of innocent’s blood.

It is hard to reconcile that God who was resolute not to pardon bloodshed of innocent in OT era all of a sudden He completely changed His methodology to kill an innocent to pardon sins of entire human race! It raises questions whether God changed His ways or human(s) coined new doctrine!

(2.) The verse emphatically asserts that the one who has sinned is responsible; obviating any substitute to bear the sins for other. It will be against the just law of a just God to punish innocent son for the sins of the father.

(3.) However, if father repents and turns back from evil, then ALL his sins will be FORGIVEN! –  it yet again obviates the concepts of substitution for bearing of sins of others. No surprise, Bible scholars and translators sub-headed the passages as“Individual Responsibility”:

To sum up, neither is there any need of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion for bearing the sins of others nor can he take sins of others on his head because according to OT books, namely, Deuteronomy, Kings and Ezekiel:

 

  • Every man is responsible for his own deeds – son is not to be held accountable for father; father is not accountable for the sins of son.
  • And, there is room for repenting sinners in mercy and forgiveness of God

 

In fact according to OT scholars, prophet Ezekiel declined any concept of vicarious atonement:

 

“God’s prophet Ezekiel said that each person is held responsible for his or her own sins. The Christian idea of vicarious atonement through belief in the blood sacrifice of Jesus is a moral reversion. Mere belief is not an adequate substitute for following God’s moral and ethical instructions in the Torah. In essence, the Jewish prophet Ezekiel rejected the Christian concept of vicarious atonement.

In rabbinic thought, man does not stand before God, either as acceptable because of what he is. Rather, he successfully stands before God by being good enough. Rabbinic Judaism rejects any need for a vicarious atonement for sinMan does not have this need. Being made in the image of God, he was never separated from God. Regardless of his conduct, he has the potential of correcting his sins by returning to the proper course of action. Since we can make any needed correction ourselves, we need no mediator. In turn, if man can approach God on his own merit, God coming to man’s aid as a mediator is unnecessary. Worse than that, it would be an interference with human progress and man’s job of perfecting creation.”(Twenty-six reasons why Jews don’t believe in Jesus, Asher Norman)

 

Based on the law of “Individual Responsibility”, God rejected when Moses (peace be upon him) tried to vicariously bear the sins of Israelites:

 

Please forgive their sin; but if you won’t, then remove my name from the book in which you have written the names of your people.” The LORD answered, “It is those who have sinned against me whose names I will remove from my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I told you about. Remember that my angel will guide you, but the time is coming when I will punish these people for their sin.” (Exodus 32:32-33)

 

Yet Paul goes out of the way to coin a new doctrine in which Christ (peace be upon him) was somehow made to bear the sins of others:

 

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Heb 9:28)

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Gal 1:3-4)

 

By writing so, Paul expects everyone to reject multiple teachings in scores of OT passages from multiple OT prophets, Jesus (peace be upon him) and God-Almighty – teachings which comes naturally acceptable to human cognizance.

 

We have seen over and over again that God in Old Testament is willing to pardon returning sinners and award salvation purely because of His own self and merciful nature.

 

Yet Paul contravenes God and claims that there cannot be any forgiveness of sins and subsequent salvation without the alleged blood shed of Jesus (peace be upon him):

 

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22)

 

Unlike what Paul taught, a just God – Allah (SWT) warns that it is another sin to commit a transgression and then try to pass the burden on an innocent:

 

And if anyone earns sin he earns it against his own soul: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. But if anyone earns a fault or a sin and throws it on to one that is innocent He carries (on himself) (both) a falsehood and a flagrant sin. (Qur’an 4: 111-112, Yusuf Ali Translation, Al-Alim CD – Rom Version.)

 

Nevertheless, much like OT rendering, Allah – The Most Merciful is always willing to forgive returning sinners:

 

“Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-ForgivingMost Merciful. (Qur’an 39:53, Yusuf Ali Translation, Al-Alim CD – Rom Version.)

 

 

Conclusion, Recapitulation and Reconciliation

 

Christians who champion vicarious atonement should explain why Pauline verses is to be blindly believed while rejecting multiple OT verses which teaches that:

 

  1. God is very merciful, willing to forgive (freely) and forget, without any condition or “give and take” policy, entirely for His own sake; if at all, then He wants to see HHis creation feeling guilty and repentant.

 

  1. Moreover, we saw numerous instances rigged in the Bible where sinners were forgiven by God.

 

  1. That there is a law of “Individual Responsibility”, wherein others cannot vicariously bear for others. Thus this law obviates Jesus (peace be upon him) allegedly dying for the sins of others. We saw how God rejected Moses’ (peace be upon him) attempt for vicarious punishment.

 

  1. In fact, if God despises bloodshed of innocent so much so that He would notforgive it, then there has to be strong enough ground and proof to believe Paul who claims that Jesus (peace be upon him), an innocent, was killed to bear the sins of others.

 

  1. Prophet Ezekiel rejected vicarious atonement; Paul wants us to believe in it. It is much safer to put our money on Ezekiel – God’s chosen Jewish Prophet than Paul who never met Jesus (peace be upon him) let alone God; except that he saw some thunder and lightning in sky, converted his Jewish name Saul to Gentile one and incorporated Gentile ideas of vicarious atonement.

 

  1. Based on OT scriptures, traditionally, Jewish sages never harbored any concept of vicarious atonement. They never felt any need for it, given they had knowledge of God’s mercy, their repentance and man’s capability to return back to correct path denouncing sins.

 

Although the above facts are irreconcilable, however, it can be done. All Christians need to do is:

 

 

I.            Either reject Pauline verses as they contradict verses of multiple Jewish Prophets of OT.

II.            Or, accept Pauline verses with a condition that Jesus’ vicarious death is neither necessary nor foundational for salvation. Yet Hebrews 9:22 is to be rescinded.

III.            Or, reject teachings of multiple OT prophets and their practices which, ironically, availed them “life” and salvation.

 

 

There were numerous other OT verses which we did not quote because already much was quoted, therefore, we request Christians to ponder once again if it is worthwhile to reject vast amount of OT teachings from multiple OT prophets based on Paul’s theology.

 

Foot notes:

(1.)  In future installments, inshallah, we would take into account the specific Pauline verses which Shamoun used to defend vicarious atonement. However, it would be interesting to note that most of Shamoun’s arguments are inherently responded in this paper.

 

(2.) The import of the word “life” is to be saved from consequences of sin, punishment of hell and enjoyment of heaven:

 

To “have eternal life” means to be saved. The happiness of heaven is called “life,” in opposition to the pains of hell, called “death,” or an eternal dying, Rev 2:2; Rev 20:14. The one is real life, answering the purposes of living – living to the honor of God and in eternal happiness; the other is a failure of the great ends of existence – prolonged, eternal suffering, of which temporal death is but the feeble image.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Matthew 19:16-30)

 

(3.) May Allah (SWT) reward Shaikh Ahmad Deedat for publicizing the verses.

(4.) Emphasize wherever not matching with the original is ours.

(5.) All biblical verses taken from Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version.